Monday, 7 July 2014

Behind the Sacré Cœur: finding Montmartre

What will I find hidden?
I visited Paris on a school trip when I was 12 and remember everyone wearing bérets, having our caricatures sketched in the Place du Tertre and forcing down tiny coffees on the steps under La Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. We felt fabulous and French and I loved it. But Montmartre divides the population. It's not what it used to be, they say. The magic is still there, hidden away, say others. So on my final day in Paris, I grabbed my camera and wandered around without a map trying to stay away from the hilltop until the final moment.

If there aren't many people, you've found the right place. The old village where 19th century artists all flocked, selling their paintings for rent and meals, joined into Paris as it expanded. Stepping away from Boulevard du Clichy, you soon find the village taking over from the peep-shows.

Shops, vineyard and the Sacré cœur - but not how I remember it.
It was a lovely place to wander around with surprises popping out all over the place. A vineyard, sculptures, murals. A great spot for this flâneuse.

Le Passe-Muraille (The Man Who Walked through Walls) was sculpted by the actor Jean Marais apparently which is just mind-blowing to me - why isn't this more well-known? This statue commemorates the intriguing story by Marcel Aymé written in 1943 about a man who can - would you have guessed it - walk through walls.

Love from all over the world
I finally found myself arriving at the back of the SC and was surrounded once again by Paris's tourist population. I'm not one to shirk the mainstream and I believe usually things are popular for a reason. It can't be denied it's pretty magical atop that hill and the view over the rooftops of Paris is one of my favourites. I never could quite detach myself from my tourist persona in Paris - the fact is that it still remains totally magical and other worldly in my eyes. So never quite a Parisian, but I tried to become more than a tourist and it ended up being quite a nice space to occupy.

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